Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Radical Hospitality

Let’s open a different can of worms.

In some parts of the church, the term “radical hospitality” is a code word. For some it means
openness to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gender individuals. For others it means taking a specific position regarding immigration.

But this biblical concept is too important to allow it to be narrowed to one or two issues.

Hospitality was an important value in Israelite culture and was built into the Mosaic Law (Exodus 22:21, 23:9; Leviticus 19:10, 19:33-34, 24:22; Deuteronomy 10:18-19, 26:12-13, 27:19). The Letter to the Hebrews calls for a generous hospitality, “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

But the most compelling argument for radical hospitality comes from the example of Jesus himself. In contrast with the Pharisees, Jesus associated with social and religious outcasts. He spoke publicly with a Samaritan woman (John 4) crossing two barriers at once. He welcomed children (Mark 10:13-16). He made physical contact with people suffering from
skin diseases, which made them unclean and potentially contagious. He ate with tax contractors and “sinners.”

He told his followers to show hospitality to those who would be unlikely and even unable to repay it (Luke 14:12-14). In his parable of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25:31-46), Jesus says that all the people of the earth will judged by how they treat those who are poor, those who are sick, those who are in prison and those who are strangers.
He identified himself with the outcast.

So what does it mean to show hospitality? Bruce Malina, in the journal Semeia, explains, “Hospitality might be defined as the process by means of which an outsider’s status is changed from stranger to guest” (“The Received View and What It Cannot Do: III John and Hospitality,” Semeia, vol. 35, p. 181).

In contrast, a common way of dealing with strangers is to drive them away with force or by social pressure (by ignoring them, ridiculing them or attacking their worth). But Jesus calls his followers to
welcome the stranger as a guest. Of course, this is not to be done blindly or without caution. And it must also be done with discernment (2 John 7-11).

This tradition of hospitality was not only practiced in the early church, but it also had a rebirth in the monastic life.

At
Paradoxology there is an extended quotation from The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Reach the West...Again, by George Hunter.

The Abbot has no higher priority than ministry with guests. You would learn that the monastic community's highest commitment is hospitality to strangers, seekers, pilgrims, and refugees.
Lonni Collins Pratt, a Catholic laywoman, and Daniel Homan, a Benedictine monk, have written Radical Hospitality: Benedict's Way of Love. It outlines the role of hospitality which is at the core of the Benedictine, monastic life. In this book, “They discuss some of the challenges of hospitality: guests sometimes have different values than their hosts; they can intrude upon the routines of daily life; they require intimate companionship when hosts might rather be alone” (Publisher’s Weekly).

Why is it called radical hospitality?

This is radical because it is not a calculating hospitality. It is not performed as a form of
manipulative pre-evangelism. (But any hospitality that is true will have the desire for the other to find life in Jesus Christ.) It is hospitality for the sake of hospitality. It is not the means to an end (even such a noble end as evangelism).

As followers of Christ, we have an obligation to extend hospitality to the outcasts in our neighborhoods and in our world.

But we can take this one step further. If Jesus ate with the outcasts, should we not also exhibit a radical hospitality in inviting the outcast to the Table of the Lord?

So what do you think?

Pastor Rod

“Helping you become the person God created you to be”

5 comments:

Jonathan Blundell said...

Thanks for the plug. Good stuff.

Pastor Rod said...

Jonathan,

Thanks for stopping by. Keep up the good work.

God Bless,

Rod

Abby said...

I totally agree. We should show hospitality to everyone, including those society deem the outcasts, and we should do it because it's the right thing to do and not just as a pre-emptive act for evangelism. I like what you say.

Pastor Rod said...

Abby,

Thanks for your comments. I get so annoyed with Chrtistians who want to define Christianity by what it is opposed to.

Jesus said that we would demonstrate that we are his disciples by our love.

Unfortunately, there is often more love shown by nonbelievers than by believers. Sad.

God Bless,

Rod

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